A tall, red-headed man wearing jeans and a polo shirt stood on Suzie’s porch. He faced the street where Drew’s car was parked. Drew had come home from some unspecified errand looking harried and distracted. He grabbed his computer and went right back out the front door only to return a moment later when his car wouldn’t start. He’d gone off with Miranda, rather than deal with the car immediately.
The man turned toward her. He smiled in a self effacing way that included the floorboards in the porch as much as her eyes. He must be a college student.
“Hi. I moved in just down the street.” He waved generally toward the southwest end of the block. “Is that your car?”
“No, it’s Drew’s.” She dreaded having to deal with it. Surely she didn’t have to worry about alternate side parking on a summer day. “Is there a problem?”
“I think I ran into it. It’s just a scratch, but I better give my insurance information to the owner.”
Suzie couldn’t see any damage from the porch,. She would have run out to look, but she hadn’t dealt with the cut on her finger from her little cooking accident. She would have to look at the car later. “Come on in.” She opened the door wider. The red-headed man stepped inside.
“Oh,” he said, head swiveling as he checked out her house. “I thought maybe this house was converted into apartments, same as where I’m living.”
“Which one are you in?” She gestured him down the long hall. She could have taken him into her office for a piece of paper to write down his information, but the blood was slowly dripping down her arm. She really needed a band aid.
He gave her his address while following her. When she went into the bathroom he caught sight of the blood. “Whoa. That’s a bad cut. Do you need some help?”
“Yes, actually.” She pointed out the band aides with her chin while she rinsed the blood off her hand. “I know the house you live in. Nancy lives there.”
“So the car belongs to Drew? Is he here?” He took the box out of the medicine chest.
“No. He caught a ride to the hospital with…” Suzie had been on the verge of saying Miranda, but something about this guy was starting to bother her. “What apartment did you say you live in?”
“There is no 3B. They don’t have a third floor.”
“Oh. I meant 2B. I’m always getting that confused.” He unwrapped a band aid. “Drew doesn’t happen to have a friend who is a cab driver, does he?”
Suzie felt her eyes widen, then carefully made her face as neutral as she could. She already had her finger out, and the strange man had his eyes on the band aide as he wrapped it around.
Could this have been the man who shot Vin? Drew hadn’t bothered to give her or Miranda a description, merely said Vin had been shot. No. She was being ridiculous. Still, she wasn’t comfortable being in the house with only the stranger. The house had never felt so empty, nor she so vulnerable before.
The sooner she could get his information, the sooner he would leave.
“There is some paper in the kitchen. You can leave your information there. This way.” She brushed past him.
She could hear his footsteps behind her, though there was a cat-like lightness about them. As soon as they were in the room she slapped a scratch pad and pencil onto the table.
The red haired man stopped in the doorway to admire the room. “This is a nice house. Would you mind giving me a tour?”
“Maybe some other time,” Suzie said as she picked up the knife she’d been using to slice the cheese for sandwiches when she cut her finger. The long, solid heft of the blade made her feel comfortable right away. “I need to finish making lunch.”
He eyed the knife uncomfortably, then picked up the pencil. Instead of writing, he twisted it around in his fingers. “Have you lived here long?”
“Long enough.” She cut more cheese than she needed if she only intended to make a Ruben sandwich for Drew and a corned beef, lettuce and cheese for herself. She considered making a cheese and lettuce for Miranda instead of the peanut butter and jam simply for the excuse to keep the knife in her hand, then opted to cut up the corned beef first. Maybe he would finish giving his information and go before she got to Miranda’s sandwich.
Still the man stood there, looking at her. “What’s your name?” She asked. “And who is your insurance company?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I should have said. I’m Joe Smith.” He held out a hand to her.
She set the knife down long enough to shake his hand while visions of murder and mayhem ran through her head. Was he really named Joe Smith? Suzie had her doubts.
“Maybe I should get your driver’s license number while we’re at it. Do you have it with you?”
The expression that flashed on eyebrow and lip was so far removed from the self-effacing way he’d looked when she opened the door to him that she quickly picked up the knife.
“No. I… don’t have it with me.”
The sound of a car door closing came from the parking area behind her house. Suzie glanced out the window facing the driveway. Drew and Miranda were coming up the walk.
“Here’s Drew now,” Suzie said.
Then it occurred to her that Drew would recognize the man who shot Vin. What is more, Vin had said something about Drew being in law enforcement. Suzie wasn’t sure if he was FBI, DEA, or what, but surely he could arrest Vin’s assailant.
A scrambling sound and sudden rush of motion from the stranger’s side of the kitchen brought her head around.
The red headed man was gone.